Q: “My preschooler is afraid of the water, it has been a real struggle to teach him to swim. Now that we have a newborn, we want to make sure we don’t have the same challenge with her. There are a half dozen private pool hazards in our neighborhood alone and I would love to actually enjoy a day at the beach without tears as we cajole our son to get his toes wet. We are on a budget and thought those mommy-and-me swim lessons would be a waste of money when he was an infant. Is it worth it to sign our daughter up?”
A: As the weather warms, pools will soon open around the country and drowning is still the second leading cause of accidental death of children in the United States. I really believe that getting children in the water really young, as babies, makes a big difference in their confidence later when they are old enough to learn to swim. Once your child has a comfort level from being in the water, they don’t develop the same kind of fear around water, so exposing them at a young age is the way to go. (I had mine in the water at two months old.)
Swimming, in general, is great for kids. It requires a lot of different muscles, so you get in great shape. For cardiovascular exercise, it is one of the best sports. Whether they are just playing, going to parties with their friends, or competing; swimming is a great activity. With all of the electronics out there, sometimes kids don’t stay active enough — this is a fun and healthy way to spend time.
- Swimming lessons can reduce the likelihood of drowning by 88%
- Children are only 13% likely to learn to swim if their parents don’t know how to swim
- 60% of Latino children cannot swim
- 40% of Caucasian children cannot swim
If budget is a concern, there are scholarships and funding options. Since 2007, USA Swimming Foundation’s “Make a Splash” initiative has given nearly five million children the gift of free or low-cost swim lessons. Through the dedication of over 850 local pool partners and Phillips 66, the program works to provide every child in America the opportunity to learn to swim. Visit www.usaswimmingfoundation.org/home/make-a-splash to find participating OC pools in your neighborhood.
Jason Edward Lezak is a four-time Olympic gold medalist. The Irvine High School grad swam for Irvine Novaquatics and UC Santa Barbara. Lezak owns long-course world records in the 400 m freestyle and medley relays and anchored the U.S. relay team that won the gold and set a new world record.